Saturday, December 23, 2006

Deep in my heart I still believe

I havent posted lyrics in a quite a while. The past year has been difficult for the motherland, for the world. Wars, rumors of wars, famine, pestilence. Death. So much death. And so for all of us, for every one of us who dreams of something better, for something purer, something more beautiful, and have never given up on that dream, who continue to work and to pray for them, our dreams for ourselves and everyone else, here's

We Shall Overcome

We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day

Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome some day

We'll walk hand in hand
We'll walk hand in hand
We'll walk hand in hand some day

Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome some day

We shall all be free
We shall all be free
We shall all be free some day

Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome some day

We are not afraid
We are not afraid
We are not afraid some day

Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome some day

We are not alone
We are not alone
We are not alone some day

Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome some day

The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around some day

Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome some day

We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day

Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome some day

Happy new year.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The universe in a grain of sand

A comment on my entry (un)Intelligent Discussion got me thinking about the intelligent design of hurricanes. I told the commenter that I wasnt aware of any such theory from the media. It turns out that scientists--mainstream scientists--have their own theories of the intelligent design of the entire universe, although I suspect they dont consider themselves ID proponents, or will not admit to being one publicly.

Consider this article in Slate dated 19 May 2004. Jim Holt interviews Stanford University physicist Andrei Linde. Linde proposes that it is possible that intelligent beings from another civilization could create a universe.

"When I invented chaotic inflation theory, I found that the only thing you needed to get a universe like ours started is a hundred-thousandth of a gram of matter," Linde told me in his Russian-accented English when I reached him by phone at Stanford. "That's enough to create a small chunk of vacuum that blows up into the billions and billions of galaxies we see around us. It looks like cheating, but that's how the inflation theory works—all the matter in the universe gets created from the negative energy of the gravitational field. So, what's to stop us from creating a universe in a lab? We would be like gods!...What my theoretical argument that we can't rule out the possibility that our own universe was created in a lab by someone in another universe who just felt like doing it."
Lindt even proposes ways in which this universe creator could communicate with his creation using the language of physics, that is, by designing parameters in the universe that intelligent creatures that might arise in it could decipher from the physical evidence. A sort of clue or code that would tell the 'people' there that this was the work of some intelligent being. From the article:
...the creator, by fixing certain values for these dozens of constants, could write a subtle message into the very structure of the universe. And, as Linde hastened to point out, such a message would be legible only to physicists.
That is exactly what ID biologists are trying to point out: that the very structure of living things point to an intelligent entity who left instructions on how to build living, replicating things. I mentioned irreducible complexity in the comments section, a term coined by biochemist Michael Behe. He points out that at the biochemical level, a level Darwin wasnt able to observe since the technology didnt exist yet when he was formulating his groundbreaking theory, one would find that processes that makes the cell run for example couldnt have come from a slow, random process, but from a 'conscious' following of an instruction set. The technical stuff of this theory is way over my head, but as I understand it, irreducible complexity can be illustrated thus:

Given a cellular organism with biological processes we'll call ABCDEFG, wherein A,B,C,D,E,F, and G are processes within the overall process, the organism will cease to function if any one of these processes is absent. Pretty simple. The reason Behe concludes that this is evidence for design is that it couldnt have come from a gradual, random process. In the primordial ooze for example, ABCDEG couldnt have survived and propagated long enough to randomly mutate the F process. A couldnt have survived to randomly acquire B, AB couldnt have survived to randomly acquire ABC, etc. And the odds that a random mutation caused A,B,C,D,E,F, and G to come together to build an organism are so large, it's practically impossible. Hence, he concludes that the process was following instructions. ID proponents are simply using accepted scientific methods for determining whether something was designed or not (by, for example the scientists from the SETI project), and turning them towards terrestrial life.

The thing that irks anti-ID scientists is the idea that ID is providing Creationists a veneer of scientific legitimacy. In fact, most of them accuse ID as being Creationism in disguise, therefore preventing curious scientists from looking into it, fearing reprisal. ID scientists, in a case of logical double standard, are pilloried for espousing philosophical ideas masquerading as science, while at the same time scientists like Richard Dawkins are given a pass for espousing equally philosophical ideas (in this case, atheism) even though a scientist's personal philosophy has little to do with the evidence.

I should point out that my view that intelligent design is worthy of investigation is based on logical consistency and not on my understanding of the science involved. I just get my information from the media. If mainstream scientists like Andrei Linde and Brian Greene believe that a universe can be designed, why is it not possible for our universe and the life in it to have been designed as well?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Fall of the Rebel Angels in the city of the pissing little boy

I managed to schedule a trip to Brussels on the 25th of November. Just a day trip. More like a preliminary exploration of the place for when I get back. I was informed at the ticket counter that work was being done on the rails so I have to take 3 trains instead of the usual two: Utrecht to 's-Hertogenbosch, 's-Hertogenbosch to Roosendaal, then Roosendaal to Brussels. I was supposed to be in Brussels by one in the afternoon, but delays on all three trains got me there an hour and a half late, and with the shortened daylight hours, I knew I wouldnt be able to take pictures worth crap. Anyway, I got to Brussels Central station, and hopped on a City Tours bus to get a bird's eye view of some of the places I intend to visit, inshallah, when I get back.

By the time I got back to the Central Station, it was almost 4. The Museum of Fine Arts closes at 5 so I hightailed it over there and went in. An American man was on his way out and I almost ran into him. "Need tickets?," he asked. Yes, I said. "Here," he handed me 2 tickets. "Some of my pals didnt make it." Ok, how much for one? "Nah, take them. We won't be able to use them." Thanks. At the entrance a nice old lady gave me a map of the museums (there are 2 of them: one for ancient art and one for modern art, joined together). "What do you want to see?," she asked. We're closing at 5 so you won't be able to see them all." Rubens and Bruegel, I said. And she pointed to their display rooms on the map. I skimmed through the Rubenses. I really wanted to see the Bruegels (both Pieters), although Brussels didnt have a large collection. I didnt need a large collection since I didnt have that much time. I liked them because they were un-Italian, and therefore to me, a bit quirky. Their style is more primitive; cartoony even.

Then I came upon Pieter the Elder's The Fall of the Rebel Angels and went, Holy crap! Give me whatever it is this guy was smoking.

Pieter the elder wouldve been right at home working in Japanese animation. The painting is a wonderful, bizarre portrayal of Michael's battle with the fallen angels. (There's Michael in the middle, with long spindly legs, in the process of kicking some dragon-like creature's ass.) The monsters are an assortment of reptiles, insects, fish, frogs... I even spotted what looked like fruit in there somewhere--monster fruit! Killer pomegranates! Run for your lives!!

I was mesmerized. For comparison, take a look at Peter Paul Rubens's version here.

Here are some details of the painting.

Take a look at that lizard man's ass. Is that light coming out
of his bunghole?

Die, flying furry fish creature!

Butterfly lychee monster of doom

Got out at closing time to the delicious smell of Belgian waffles. But waffles can wait. I have to try the beer. The raspberry Kriek was good, but I have to say the White beer is my favorite. Made from wheat, and flavored with herbs and orange peel. Yum. Served with lemon.

Mussels in Brussels? Not on this trip. Although Brussels is known for its mussels in white wine and there were rows and rows of restaurants serving them, with fries a la Belgique on the side, I didnt have a chance to try them. I was going to, but on my way to the Grand Place, I spotted this small Tunisian tea house with a delicious display of pastries and I just had to get in. I had a tea made from fresh mint leaves and one--ok two--pastries: sweet filo dough around a creamy center with a hint of rose water. Damn, that was good. By the time I reached the brasseries, I didnthave enough room for the mussels. Besides, they serve them in big buckets and I dont think I can finish all of it. Maybe next time. I tried the street food instead: escargot in broth. Take that, orange eggs and fishballs.

There are a lot of things to go back to in Brussels, and maybe someday I will. Any city whose symbol is a pissing little baby is okay in my book.

(Note: The picture of the painting is from the Web Gallery of Art site. The one I took was crap. All the other photos are mine.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

English anomaly of the day

I propose to find anomalous practices in the English language and its local mongrel daughter Taglish and post them here as soon as I find them.

1) Which is correct: 'Keep this door open' or 'Keep this door opened.'? Most of the people I asked chose the first, and so would I. Except we say, for apparently no reason at all, 'Keep this door closed.' There is no logical reason we would use a present tense form of the adjectival verb for one, and the past tense form for its opposite. The closest I could come up with is the need to prevent ambiguity between keeping a door shut and keeping a door near, which both use 'close' hence the need to distinguish keeping the door shut by using 'closed.' But that isnt satisfactory. Only a moron would misconstrue nearness with shut-ness. Therefore I will from this day on use 'Keep this door opened' until this anomaly is satisfactorily resolved.

2) The Tagalog prefix 'na-' is used to denote that an action has occured in the past, much like -d or -ed is used to denote simple past perfect tense in English: Open, Opened; Close, Closed. Therefore, if one uses na- in Taglish, one doesnt need to use the past tense form in the English part of the word or phrase. 'nabore' for bored, 'nabring up' for brought up, 'naforesee' for foresaw, etc. However, in common Taglish usage, one uses, again for no logical reason at all to connote being fed up, the Taglish word 'nafed up.' This is anomalous. Therefore, unless anybody defends the usage of nafed up to me, I will use the more correct nafeed up.

I will try to unearth more anomalies and post them here as they come to me. In the meantime, I enjoin you to use the more correct forms until the issue is satisfactorily resolved. Sure theyll laugh at you, but I ask you, didnt they laugh at Magellan when he proposed to circumnavigate the globe? Didnt they laugh at Copernicus when he proposed that the Earth revolved around the sun? They can laugh at you, but it will be the laughter of the dunces against pure, unadulterated genius. Join me. Let's carve up a little corner of sanity in this wild and crazy world. Keep your minds opened.

Addendum (8 December): It has occured to me that the reason we use nafed up is because there is no infinitive 'to feed up' in English. The infinitive is actually 'to get fed up' (got fed up, getting fed up, will get fed up). Therefore the correct Taglish usage should be naget fed up, and this is the form I will be using henceforth in more formal conversation. Nafed up is acceptable in less formal situations.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

(un)Intelligent Discussion

I caught the tail end of a segment in BBC Two's News Night wherein the host Jeremy Paxman was moderating a discussion between Intelligent Design proponent Professor Andy Mcintosh and Darwinist Professor Lewis Wolpert. And as usual, I think the media has no clue what ID is all about. Neither, I suspect, do Darwinists based on that discussion. Professor Wolpert spent the interview (the part I caught) chanting the Darwinist mantra "ID is just religion" while moderator Jeremy Paxman kept asking Professor Mcintosh, "But who is the designer?"

On the News Night website, they called Truth in Science, the organization that Prof. Mcintosh represents, a Creationist group. I don't know how accurate that is. From what I caught of the interview, TIS isnt a Creationist group but an ID group. The two are different, and this is what the media doesnt seem to get. Creationism is based on a literal interpretation of Genesis (which means Creationists believe all this is created by God--a religious belief). ID is based on a scientific hypothesis based on what these scientists have observed in nature, that the complexity of life on earth could not have come from random events, that the pattern of life on earth seems to be following instructions, and where there are instructions, then there must be some intelligence behind it. That's all. Who is the designer? is not a question an ID proponent could answer scientifically since there is no evidence of the identity of this entity. It could be anybody: God, Nature, little green men, they dont know and dont profess to know. What there is evidence for is that someone did it. Just like CSI. Those forensic scientists in the TV show could look at the evidence and conclude that a death isnt random or accidental based on the evidence: someone did it. The difference of course is that in CSI, the evidence for the identity of the killer can be found. In the case of ID theory, the scientists havent found evidence of who did it. When an ID proponent says, "I believe the designer is God (or Nature, or Steve from next door)," he is making a philosophical or theological statement, not a scientific one. But anti ID people seize upon this and conflate the faith with the science. "See? He believes in God (or Steve)! Therefore ID is a religion." This is illogical and just plain stupid.

I think both sides of the debate have good arguments, but what do I know? But the fact is that when a scientific theory becomes the mainstream, it becomes intolerant of competing theories. Competing theories have to constantly prove themselves against the mainstream. I think that's a good thing. We can't blindly follow every new thing that comes along just because they sound nice or they agree with our own personal belief system. Fledgeling theories have to prove their mettle to gain acceptance. The ID people, knowing that the mainstream view controls the publications where they can gain legitimacy, have taken their case to the public, who can then decide. But they can only decide wisely if the facts are accurately reported by the media but media hasnt done its homework. Or worse, they have already taken a side in this debate.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Ho' train

They call him Sinterklaas over here and he's tall, slim, and wears a cardinal's garb. He doesnt live in the North Pole because he isnt insane. He lives in Spain because it's warm and sunny and because he isnt a whale-and-seal-hunting inuit. Somehow, when he made his way over to New Amsterdam (present day New York City), the lure of the big city got to him and he lived a life of debauchery. He gained weight from all that junk food and beer, and became a crack-dealing pimp. Not a pimp, eh? So tell me, Einstein, why he dresses up in red suede and yells 'Ho, ho, ho' all the time. From what I can tell, he still lives in Spain. He just says he lives in the North Pole to give the Man the slip, daddy-o. And he isnt the first holy man to succumb to the weakness of the flesh. Siddharta Gautama used to be a skinny ascetic from India, then preached moderation, the middle way, til he came to China and got so enamored with the cuisine (and the women) that he became an obese parody of his former self and fathered several children. At the same time. Look at them climbing all over their fat, laughing dad.

(Picture from

Friday, November 10, 2006

Salman and the sea of anhedonia

I think I may have turned anhedonic. Ive complained to more than a few people about the lack of pleasure I derive from the cuisine here, whether it be the food in the cafeteria or the shawarma shop or the faux-Chinese food, how the tastes are starting to blend into each other in an amorphous mass of sameness. Oh how I yearn for ginisang munggo. The kind with the thick slabs of those Ilocano chicharon or leftover crispy pata in it. And alugbati. I love those slimy leaves. The fact that I can yearn for munggo clearly shows that Im not anhedonic about food, no sir. The anhedonia Im talking about is an anhedonia about something I normally derive pleasure from, and that's reading. (And here I say a prayer of thanks for the fella who owns Booksale.)

Ive always enjoyed reading ever since I can remember and my mother tells me Ive always enjoyed reading ever since before I can remember. And growing up I never lacked for a supply of stuff to read. My aunt was a librarian in a school in Mendiola and she'd come to our house with stacks of books discarded from the library and give them all to me. And there's always the school library. Even during my street punk days, I never stopped reading, so much so that I earned the nickname Genius from the rest of the gang. (The other nickname was Bonifacio, because, the guy who gave it to me, one of the more senior ones in the old gang, said I was 'sugod ng sugod'. But I wasnt sugod ng sugod. They were always ahead of me when we 'attacked'. I guess he gave me that name because he thought someone who read as much as I did shouldnt even be hanging with them.)

I bought two books over the weekend: Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown and David Eggers's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Shalimar I bought because, well, it's Rushdie, man. I have always been in awe of this guy, whose works are NEVER in Booksale and therefore require considerable monetary commitment, ever since I bought my first Rushdie book, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, which led me to his other works. In fact I credit Salman Rushdie with killing all illusions I have of ever becoming a writer of fiction. (Dan Brown later saved those illusions. The trick, Ive learned, is never to go for greatness when mediocrity would suffice.) A.H.W.S.G. I bought because of the sheer audacity of the title. Ive heard of this book before and ignored it because I normally dont go for memoirs. What makes these people think their lives are any more interesting than those of the rest of us that they would foist it upon the world at large? Besides, memoirs are almost always depressing. But I gave this one a shot.

I started with A.H.W.S.G., and right off the bat it didnt seem right. As I flipped through the pages, I noticed overly long and elaborate Preface and Acknowledgement sections, the length of which screamed Manic-Depressive, plus a section on how to enjoy the book which said the Preface and Acknowledgement sections werent necessary for the enjoyment of the book. Ok, I'll take your word for it, Dave.

It read well enough at first. By the time I got to the cancer, my heart sank. Another depressing memoir. But I read on because Eggers does write well. But when he began describing what he and his mother were watching on TV (while he was holding her bleeding nose), I went, Come on. Do you have to describe what's happening in that episode of Gladiators? It must be a metaphor for something--something I dont get because Im stupid so I read on. But he went on to describe another TV show. I closed the book. See you later, Dave.

I picked up Shalimar the Clown. And it was everything I expected: Rushdie at the top of his game. His words flow like liquid poetry. The narrative just takes you along paths of Rushdie's choosing. He's erudite, he's funny. Usually, I just go along for the ride, but this time something was amiss. The rhythm was growng repetitive. It wasnt a Bollywood musical number anymore. It was a drone. I was drowning in a sea of metaphors. It was an explosion of figures of speech. Im fine with figures of speech. In fact I used a couple in this very paragraph. But to be deluged in it, to be overwhelmed with poetic narrative gone berserk... I went, For the love of God, Salman. Will you just get on with telling me what happened? I closed the book, defeated.

I understand my reaction to the Eggers book, but to the Rushdie book? Have I lost the ability to enjoy myself? Maybe it's the weather: it's cold and it's wet. Perhaps it has something to do with being alone in a foreign land where at this time of year, the sun rises past seven in the morning and it's already dark at five pm. Because this isnt normal to a tropical islander like me. I lack energy. Im gaining weight, and the weight isnt evenly distributed. It seems to be massing in my tummy, my butt, and my jaw. I have fat jaws.

Maybe I miss the family. I find considerable pleasure reading the back of a box of Sunny Boy instant milk powder when I can hear the kids playing. Im not anhedonic at all. I just need to be enjoying myself to enjoy myself. I turn the TV on and fall asleep to CNN.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I dont know if the people at Fashion TV are immune to irony but this morning, in a segment called Fashion and Music, where they showcase music-video-inspired fashion trends, they chose, of all videos, Pink's Stupid Girl, which pokes fun at the fashion industry, albeit not directly. It directly pokes fun at, among other things, the superficiality of women who choose to define themselves with the fashionable clothes they wear. In fact, as a parting shot, the video shows a little girl, on being faced with the decision on whether to play with Barbie dolls and everything they stand for, or a football, wisely chose the latter.

FTV is arguably one of the stupidest channels on cable. It's a tribute to superficiality. Even their rare interviews with fashion people are superficial. The entire fashion industry is a scam targetted primarily at the middle class, with all their class insecurity; their fear of being accused of being baduy, of being masa or jologs, and therefore not one of the Beautiful Ones, the in-crowd, the alta sociedad, hence their penchant to follow the trend and suppress their individuality, in hopes of dressing up like what they think the upper crust dresses like. Only the upper crust, the really rich ones, dont dress like that. The upper crust doesnt care. They can show up at parties dressed in the frumpiest clothes and they won't give a hoot. They dont have a single class-insecure muscle in their bodies.

The middle class is the only strata of society that isnt in on the joke that is the fashion industry, despite the blatant hints that some fashion designers are giving them. Open your eyes, people. The designers are giving you a clue. Watch a fashion show on FTV. After the parade of models whose sole purpose is to tell you what to wear next season (while also telling you that youll never look that good), the designers come out and take a bow. If theyre one of those designers whose consciences dont permit them to be cruel to the middle class who're giving them their rent money, who're kind enough to let the middle class in on the joke if only they'd get it, theyll show up in t-shirt and jeans, or in the frumpiest, grungiest outfits they could find. That's their way of saying, "Gotcha! It's all a joke, get it?" Designers like Valentino, who show up impeccably dressed are the cruel ones. They know theyre making fun of you and revel in the fact. They have no compunctions about taking the middle class' hard-earned cash.

But after all that, I have to confess I'll tune in to FTV again like I do everyday. Two words: Underwear models.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Return of the Puppy Lovers

Not quite. The Puppy Lovers were the legendary band of rogues who terrorized the late, lamented, Carlos Palanca Street haunt, the Blarney Stone. Every Thursday night was quiz night, and they would come in at around 7-ish while it was still Happy Hour, order their Happy-Hour-priced beer, and nurse them until the quiz started at 9:00 pm (Happy Hour ended at 8.). By then they had their game-faces on, surveilling the competition and plotting strategy. They so terrorized the owners of that august establishment with their cheapskate ways and the ease with which they handled the quiz questions, that the owners saw it fit to pad the quiz with questions submitted by the House Team, a downright despicable bunch of expatriate Brits--a kind of leakage in reverse. But even with the unfair advantage, the Puppy Lovers would kick alien ass with astounding regularity, so much so that they so endeared themselves to the owner/chef even though he knew that they wouldnt generate that much sales. On the contrary, since the prizes sometimes consisted of various bottles of booze that the establishment normally purveys, it is quite possible that with the Puppy Lovers, he ends up paying them instead of the other way around. Perhaps, the Puppy Lovers' reputation as a quiz-force to be reckoned with attracted other people to the pub--other teams with the hope of toppling the Lovers, and if I might reluctantly add, the House Team, from their places of honor, or at least to bear witness to the battle of wits and trivia the likes of which they have never seen before. These other teams are mostly composed of expats as well: Aussies, Kiwis, other Brits. And they order a lot. So owner/chef is happy. Even after the Blarney Stone morphed into O'Reilly's under new ownership, Thursday Quiz Night continued to generate heat.

Anyway, Monday night was quiz night at Míck O'Çonnor's pub and with the British colleague knowing of the Puppy Lovers' reputation, and my role in building the legend, he invited me to come and see what the Dutch competition was like. We went through several team names before we settled on Pimpin' Aint Easy, Biatch. So our four-man team of one American, one Curacao-born-and-raised Dutchman, one Brit, and one Pinoy hunkered down, fueled by beer, and forged ahead to do battle. Round One was general knowledge. Eight questions and we shot them all down. My reputation preceded me, and with that first round, I caught up with it. Pimpin Aint Easy, Biatch was at the top of the leader boards.

And it was all downhill from there. The old teams, who had at least twice as many members as we did, knew they were in a fight. Especially the teams in the Premiere League, the ones with the highest point totals for the year. Round 2 was geography and history where we got 5 of 8; entertainment 5 of 8... the closest we got to a perfect 8 was in the other general knowledge round when we got 7. By then the Premier League teams were coughing up 8's from their asses. In short, we didnt manage even a podium finish, landing fourth behind the perennial champions.

"That wasnt bad for a first try," Dutch said.
"Yeah we did quite allright," Brit said.
"Man, you know now I totally believe you when you said you went to Amsterdam and visited the museums and never went to the red-light district," Yank said.

Self-congratulations all around. The team was pretty proud of itself! "What the hell's wrong with you?," I asked. "We LOST! We're LOSERS!!" I have to admit, the high standards the Puppy Lovers have instilled in me in the art of useless information are pretty tough to live up to.

We'll get 'em next time.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Frassum wassum face-recognition program.

Friday, September 29, 2006


I received word from Mr. Alfar yesterday, a day that was ominously rather windy.

Dear J,

I regret to inform you that I'm passing on your story for the anthology.

It was engaging but ultimately I had to make some hard choices.

Thanks for your interest and I hope to read more from you in the future(more hard work, it’s true J )



It was expected, of course. If Dean Alfar had accepted it, I would have had serious doubts about the quality of the submissions, but Mr. Alfar has high standards and my little story just didnt have the legs. I sent it to some people to review and comment on (as well as to weed out the numerous typos, hehe) to salvage the thing. DKNY was kind enough to go over it as well as an officemate. (Grifter! Get off your ass and send me your comments!)

But let me just take this opportunity to outline the philosophy behind my attempts at Speculative Fiction. I would like to attempt works in something author Joe Haldeman once called 'refractive mimesis' which is just a fancy name for stories that look like theyre happening here in our world... but arent. In Mr. Haldeman's words in his intro to Kim Stanley Robinson's Venice Drowned, he said, "'s that creepy kind of double-vision writing where an imagined world, similar to our ours but different in some dramatic particular, to such an extent that the world ceases to be simply background for the story; in a curious way, it becomes the story." Rather lofty, one might think, but I would rather think of it as a philosophy out of my own personal laziness. I just dont have enough energy to create my own universe from scratch. In the story I submitted to Mr. Alfar's anthology, I chose to use real people from our world, but skewed them a bit. I thought it would save me time from describing them to the readers, since I was going for a 3000-word story and I wouldnt want to use up some of the 3000 to describe people. So Randy Jackson isnt a record producer in my world; he's a world famous illusionist (based on James Randi, better known as The Amazing Randi), Ravi Shankar and Farrokh Bulsara (better known as Freddy Mercury) are Nobel Prize winning physicists, etc. I used the same refractive technique on my little KFC story posted in this blog some time ago and I enjoyed writing that a lot.

I believe Im getting the hang of this and would like to churn out more, inshallah. A lot of local publications have shown interest in new stories and because monetary considerations are utmost in my agenda, I should think that I have to come up with stuff that people would want to read, but more importantly, stuff people would want to buy.

By the way, the final list of stories accepted by Mr. Alfar are posted in his blog. Way to go!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I'll never be a good fiction writer

Multiple Palanca winner Dean Francis Alfar issued a call for subissions to volume 2 of his Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology. That was around--I dont remember. [I checked. He issued the call for submissions last April.] All I know is that the deadline is on the 15th of September and true to form, I started writing what would be my submission on the 15th, right after lunchtime. Which brings us to the first reason I will never be a good writer: I didnt have time to rewrite. The essence of writing is rewriting. It's rare that anybody gets it right the first time. You have to hone it and shape it and pare it, or sometimes beef it up; develop it. It has to be seen in the harsh light of objectivity after youve cooled down from the creative ardor. I didnt do that.

Which brings me to the second reason why I will never be a good writer: I couldnt do that. I dont know. For some reason, I have this... fear... of revisiting any story I created. It makes me cringe. I remember an interview with Gene Hackman where he said he could never watch himself on sceen so he has never seen any of his movies. I guess it's the same thing. Not that Im comparing myself to the multi-awarded actor. Im just saying that the reason he gave in the interview made perfect sense to me.

I mentioned the word 'fear'. That brings me to the third reason I'll never be a good writer. The blank page fills me with dread. I have ideas out the wazoo, but when it came time to write them down, I balk, paralyzed with stage fright. And in those times when I manage to write a sentence, and it sounds 'poetic' or flowery, or artsy-fartsy in any way, I kill it; I delete the sentence. I guess it's my training as a technical writer; any sort of adornment or decoration is superfluous.

And that's the reason I only started writing my story on the day of the deadline. I put it off and put it off, leaving me to work, stop-start as the daily grind intrudes, with no time to review and rewrite.

Anyway, I finally did it. Submitted the piece, and as I re-read it the next day, scanning and cringing along the way, I realized what a complete waste of Mr. Alfar's time it is. But it's out of my hands now. Maybe one day I'll come back to it and give it the time it deserves, because quite frankly, I think it rocks. The idea of it, if not the actual execution.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Monday, August 21, 2006

A moveable feast

The original plan was Paris, Turin, and Venice, but I only had a weekend so Paris it was. I made reservations at a hotel just across the street from the Gare du Nord. I suppose I could have gone cheaper, since I'll only be using it as bedspace, but I didnt want to spend my first day there getting lost. So I checked in, dumped my stuff, and headed on out. First stop, the Louvre. But first I had to get Metro tickets. I bought a two-day Paris Visite pass for Saturday and Sunday. The woman at the ticket counter spoke English and was very nice. In fact the concierge at the hotel was, too. No such thing as the rude, arrogant Frenchman you often see in the movies. Everyone I met on the weekend was nice. Not everyone spoke English, which was fine. Gave me a chance to practice my subatomic French: Bon-jour-bon-soir-pardon-merci-s'il-vous-plait-ou-est-je-voudrais-je-
ne-parle-pas-francais. Now then...

After a minute or so getting acquainted with the Metro, off I went to the Louvre. Got my ticket, and walked right in to the Denon wing where they had classical sculpture and paintings by Italian and Spanish artists. Nice. I turned a corner and went--Holy crap!--into this huge hallway full of paintings. There is just no way Im going to make it through all of this, I thought, and forget about the other wings; there was just no way. So I skimmed past a lot of the paintings, feeling a bit guilty that I didnt pay them the proper respect.

The biggest crowds were in front of the armless Venus de Milo, and that headless, armless, Winged Victory (boy these crowds really liked their amputees), and of course, Mona Lisa herself, La Giaconda. The painting was behind glass and there was a tape barrier around it so that you cant get too close. Call me a cretin, but I dont get it. There's obviously a certain mystique about the painting that deserves contemplation, but there are far more impressive paintings in the Louvre that I could get within inches of. Leonardo's John the Baptist, for example, whose face looks exactly like the Mona Lisa's, isnt under glass.

After a couple of hours or so in the Denon wing, I decided to give up. I only had a weekend so I went out into the courtyard and walked through the park toward the Arc De Triomphe (two euros for a scoop of ice cream the size of a ping pong ball? What th-? In Utrecht, 2 euros could get you a tennis ball sized scoop.). There was a crowd in the courtyard too and as I was walking along the Champs Elysees boulevard, I remember thinking, Where are all the French people?, since all I seemed to see were tourists.

Arc De Triomphe. Click, click, click. Decided against going up. I'll do that at the Eiffel Tower instead. Metro to the Eiffel Tower, chop-chop.

Monstrous queue at the Tower. So that rules out getting to the top. But you cant help but marvel at the intricacies of the metal structure. Makes you think that things were so much better then when they took the time to really make things beautiful. Took pictures instead. Then this French speaking African tourist asked me to take his picture with the tower as a backdrop, and he was probably surprised that I got as low as I could and motion him to get closer. I wanted to get the tower's top and did a pretty good job at it. When he saw the result, he beamed and asked me to take another one with him and his two daughters. Ok, let's move back a bit. Come closer. Closer, that's it. Now put your heads together. No, closer. That's it. Click. More smiles from him and from his daughters. He then asked me to take one more picture, this time of just his 2 daughters. Click. Big smile from the kids. Merci, monsieur. Youre welcome. It's so good to make other people happy that youd think people would do it more often.

I decided not to hang out at the tower since I won't be able to go to the top anyway, so I decided to go to Montmartre to look for Amelie. I got to the top, to the Sacre Coeur cathedral, where I didnt find Amelie, but saw instead 2 young men doing amazing tricks with a football to hip-hop music. Sweet Georgia Brown woudlve been better as they were juggling the ball with their feet, but hip-hop's fine, too. From the Montmartre, you could see almost the whole of Paris, and as the sun went down, I looked at the Eiffel Tower, just in time to see it explode into a dazzling light show. Drat! I missed it. Hung out til about 11 pm then got back to the hotel.

Woke up at--wha!--it's 9:30! Showered, got dressed and checked out. Off to Notre Dame to look for Esmeralda. The plan was to get there, take pictures, and move off to the next tourist trap, but then I said to myself I better get resigned to the fact that I won't be able to cover everything and if I keep hurrying, I won't be able to enjoy what little time I had. See what happened yesterday when you missed the Eiffel light show? Yeah, self. Youre right. So I hung back and chilled. There was a mass going on but they still allowed visitors in. Everyone knew enough to keep quiet. Out of respect, I refrained from taking photos, but no such compunction prevented the other guests who took flash photos of the priest amid the awe-inspiring altar. The chick leading the singing sang like an angel. In a setting like that, you cant help but be caught in the reverence. It would be safe to say that if a Pinoy were there attending mass, he would not be sending and receiving text messages, believing it to be sacrilegeous.

Outside, the queue to the Notre Dame towers was long and slow, so I decided against trying to go up and decided to have breakfast instead. At 11:30. Un petit-dejeuner, s'il vous plait, madame. The breakfast was one big glass of fresh orange juice, a cafe au lait, a small baguette,and a croissant. The nice lady who ran the place then placed a whole block of butter and a whole jar of four-fruit jam in front of me. None of that single-serve crap. This is Paris, man. I took my sweet time. After that, I walked along the Seine. This really is a beautiful city, I thought as I walked. Sickeningly romantic. I dont know the bridge where Gene Kelly danced with Leslie Caron was but I found myself humming, "It's very clear, our love is here to stay.. la-la-la..." I totally understood why the French surrendered so quickly in World War II. They didnt have the heart to see the city destroyed.

By then it was 2 pm. My train leaves at 6:55. I had just enough time to go to the Musee d'Orsay. Rodin, Renoir, Manet, Monet, Gaugin, Millet, Van Gogh... At this point, Id like to talk about something Ive observed. I ran into some Pinoy tourists, and they were all in their 50s and 60s. The Chinese, Japanese, and a few Thais and Indonesians I ran into were quite young. If not actually in college, they probably graduated not too many years ago. Im sure it's a reflection of the state of our economy. It's sad. The only young Pinoys I ran into werent there on holiday. They worked in the service industry. One has been there 3 years and he hasnt gone to the Louvre yet. I dont know, maybe he just isnt interested, but just the same, it's sad if in case he doesnt feel the urge to look at the treasures there, since they belong to him, too. They belong to all of us. Anyway...

At 5 I headed on back to the Gare Du Nord, had 'lunch' at a brasserie of steak and beer and a coffee, and waited for the train.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

It's a beautiful world

I don't know about you but I think races were meant to be mixed. I was convinced of that even before I got here looking at pictures of Brazilian models (Adriana Lima = Yum!), but three weeks in the Netherlands convinced me even more. That's why I don't understand racial purists. The Netherlands itself is a wonderful model of racial integration, and integration here includes the carnal variety. Last weekend, I was in a local church in Utrecht and there's this whole community of Filipina women married to Dutch men, and I tell you their kids were beautiful. More beautiful than the sum of their genes. Somehow in the union of Filipina and Dutch, nature took the best features of both parents… and enhanced them, taking liberties with its own laws to produce offspring that looked only vaguely like their parents.

A colleague of mine here in the bank, a black American, has hooked up with a white girlfriend. He once said he'd have second thoughts about doing that back home because of the possible disapproval of the black community. And America is supposed to be this land of equality. Pfsh. I remember Tiger Woods marrying his caucasian girlfriend causing quite a stir. "What, black women aint good enough for ya, biatch?" The black community seems to have arrogated Tiger unto them, hence their disappointment at his choice of the woman who would share his life. But Tiger is as much Asian as he is African, hence his balking at the term African-American when the media uses it to refer to him. And being of mixed parentage himself, he probably has an innate knowledge that his choice was perfectly normal.

At the Rotterdam Summer Carnival, I caught a glimpse of how beautiful the world is. We went there on my first weekend here, July 31. We were a veritable Bennetton commercial: a colleague from England and me, and our buddies from the bank, the aforementioned black American and a guy from Curacao, who supervised our project. When we got there, the bands were already playing, and the DJ's were spinning, the parade was just about underway, but what struck me the most was the people on the steets. They were of every shade of color there is: East Asians, South Asians, Caucasians, Middle Eastern. White, brown, black, and all shades in between. We parked ourselves right in front of the stage where the DJ was spinning Latin-flavored dance music and of course there was multi-racial, multi-colored dancing. And after a couple of beers, I have to say I represented Asia quite well, thank you very much.

I remember thinking, Why can't it always be like this? Why cant we all get along? In the Middle East, the Arabs and Persians are climbing all over each others back to be the first to eliminate the Jews, who are just as ready to render unto them that which they wish to render, but it wasn't always like that. They got along fine as recently as the 1940s. In fact it was Saladin, the great hero of Islam, who invited the Jews to return to Jerusalem after their massacre and exile at the hands of the Crusaders. It's quite clear that the world today is run by idiots and it would be easy to conclude how ugly it is and the rest of the species on this planet would be better off without us.

But it isnt ugly. We're all meant to live together and marvel at our diversity. We're all meant to learn from each other, help each other, work with each other, play with each other, and if truth be told, boink each other as well. There is no master race, there is no inferior race. There's just the human race so put on your sneakers and run in it. The world is beautiful.

Monday, August 07, 2006

More things to do in Utrecht

I dont know what the band's called. The jazz trumpeteer added another level of sophistication to the reggae-infused rap. The music was still from the streets, but a rather more upscale street. Those guys rocked. After they finished their set, I went home.

Only to find out a couple of hours later that this happened. I didnt mind the sirens at first. I thought the police were just out to arrest a few drunks.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Comparing Cafs

Me and the rest of my posse of jabronis are with jobs that allow us to roam the earth. For work, more than anything else, and not for holiday, but Im not complaining. I now seek to undertake a comparison of the different cafeteria whose fare I have been fortunate enough to partake. I call to mind three: the caf at the head office in Nanjing, the one at the then Thai Farmers Bank, now Kasikorn Thai in Bangkok, and this present one at Rabo in Utrecht. All three are subsidized, meaning the management pays for, in whole or in part, the cost of the food. All three have something else in common: in one way or another, they are inexorably linked to agriculture. Both Kasikorn and Rabo have established themselves as the bank of choice for agribusiness in their respective spheres, while the home office sits in the middle of a vast agricultural land teeming with vegetables and fruit, all organically grown with biodegrading organic matter, skillfully fashioned using ancient techniques, from various organic material ranging from kitchen waste and animal feces, with, I suspect, a healthy dose of shit whose provenance is decidedly human. Needless to say, the place stank. Stank. Past tense. For even as I write this, the farm lands surrounding the office are giving way to China's wildly galloping economy. The farmers have been relocated, after being compensated by the government, elsewhere. Rumor has it that the area will be transformed into some sort of park, probably industrial. The last holdout to this transformation being the head office which stands alone amid the rubble of newly demolished houses, til they find a more suitable place to relocate, and a more optimum deal with the government as to the compensation for such an undertaking. Digression over, let's have at it, the most recent one first.

Rabobank has 2 labyrinthine buildings right in the heart of Utrecht on opposite sides of the railroad track. The cafeteria in the building where I am is clean and spacious, though it does get crowded at times around lunch. Lunch fare is an assortment of cold meats, breads, and cheeses, and hot fare: soup, meat or fish, and vegetables. They have a salad bar, fruit, and various drinks from fresh fruit juices to sodas. You pay for this with a debit card. For employees of the bank, this is like their regular ATM. For us, we have to buy non-reloadable cards from the bank at 21.50 Euros a pop. An average meal hovers around 3.50, which is probably less than half of what youd pay for a similar meal outside. Milk is free and you can drink as much of it as you want. They serve two kinds: regular milk and karnemelk, which is I think some variation of drinkable yogurt. Like Yakult.

Lunch fare is limited but the hot meal changes everyday. Usually it's a variation of the usual protein, carb, and green vegetable combo: chicken, green beans, and boiled potatoes and gravy, that sort of thing, in portions that are too big for my tiny stomach, but not having grown up in a horn of plenty, I feel compelled to finish nevertheless. The food is usually bland and unimaginative, although once they served curried satay chicken and noodles called bami that looked exactly like the bami we have at home except that this (I suspect it's Indonesian, a former Dutch colony) didnt have two kinds of noodles in it. I was thankful for the spice. The rest of the week, it was pretty dull.

Next we go to Bangkok and to Kasikorn Thai's cafeteria. If the caf at Rabo is huge, this one's absolutely cavernous, with a huge variety of fare: western, Thai, Chinese. Again being subsidized, youll spend about half here than you would spend outside. Although I usually stuck to Thai food, sometimes I would mosey over to Manang's (I forgot her name) who serves Thai flavored Chinese food. Her roast duck in noodles and broth is absolutely superb. You have to get there early to avoid the long cue. She serves this once a week, usually on Thursdays. The food in that caf was never boring, especially the Thai food. Once I got what looked like noodles and vegetables. It looked like pancit canton until I put a forkful in my mouth. The noodles turned out to be ginger cut into long, thin strips. They also serve food with a variety of herbs like mint and basil and coriander which the Thais ate by plucking the leaves from the stalks and popping them in their mouths. Needless to say, I did the same. The caf is open all hours til around 7. You can go down there for a cup of coffee or a snack. I usually did that when Im bored or when I need a break from staring at my monitor all day.

Finally, we come to Nanjing. The food in the company caf is 100% subsidized. You get lunch and dinner for free. But, as they say, you deserve what you pay for. The caf is crude. You wouldnt walk in a place like that for a meal if you were hungry. The meals are served in metal trays, military style, with the cook with nicotine-stained teeth unloading the usualy four dishes together in the tray and it would look like something very similar to hogslop. Then you go get as much rice as you want. Then you get your chopsticks, some of them look like someone's been chewing on them in their spare time. Then you get your soup. Then you sit down to eat. THe caf is only open at lunch and dinner and it seems that the cooks there do nothing but cook the whole day. I think they cook the meals a couple of days in advance. Before the SARS outbreak, dinner was served family-style, with the food in the middle and we all had to share it. But since SARS, dinner is served military-style as well.

To be fair, even with the unelegant way of serving them, the food sometimes is interesting. The cooks I think are from the Szechuan school since they always put in a fair amount of chili peppers in their cuisine. And once in a while youll get a surprise. Once, a colleague of mine from London and I were sitting at lunch and we were eating a vegetable dish with a vaguely identifiable slices of protein in it. The meat was not fish, not pork, and was slightly slippery. I said to him, "How do you like your snake?" He turned to me wide-eyed, "Is this snake?" "No." I said, "probably eel." A Chinese colleague corrected me matter-of-factly: "It's frog." Sure enough, we later found a head. I dont mind frogs, but por dios por santo, those babies were slimy. The cooks offer variations of the same Szechuan-type theme on vegetables, pork, chicken, duck, and various unidentifiables. I dont think they ever served beef. We never see any cats in the streets.

If I had to judge all three, Kasikorn's caf would win hands down for variety. Rabo gets props for their waste disposal system where there are separate color coded bins for organic waste and non-organic waste. And the hot Dutch chicks at lunch dont hurt either. Nanjing is of course the most affordable--duh. And I like the seaweed soup. (Grifter likes the tomato egg-drop soup. And the 'spaghetti'.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Erue a framea animam meam et de manu canis unicam meam

I wanted to name her DatDamDawg, but was overruled by the kids who named her Power Cat. She’s a Dalmatian puppy and is about 4 months old now. We take her for a walk twice a day, since these Croatian canines are an active sort. Power Cat loves to play and rather than walk her on a leash, I’d let her loose and let her run free because she looks like she’s having a lot of fun doing that. But that’ll have to end soon as she’s growing up into this muscular, killer-dog type creature. When she first arrived and I let her loose, even little old ladies found it cute that she would jump up on them and play with them, but now she’s about the size of an adult askal and is growing into a size that could devour small children so I stay close. Soon she’ll have to be on a leash on our walks.

I never had a pet growing up. Wait, I did have scorpions and spiders, and a duck (more later) and if a pet is some non-human you take care of, then I did have pets. Just not mammalian ones. And my relationship to them wouldn’t win me an award from the Humane Society. I’m not one of those pet owners who consider them a part of the family. Don’t get me wrong; I take good care of my pets. They’re not mistreated or ill-housed or ill-fed. It’s just that they’re animals and I’m the big-shot human master and I treated them more as toys than anything else.

When I was 10 I had a pet duck. My grandmother gave my siblings and me ducklings she bought from the palengke, still in their downs. Mine was a tiny yellow-and-brown one. It was loyal and followed me around everywhere I went. In fact all of them followed us around which was quite endearing. I fed her commercial poultry feed and augmented her diet with lizards and insects I caught. I loved it when I caught a lizard or a grasshopper, and I would throw them in the midst of those ducks. They’d fight for it, one taking it in its beak and running off like a rugby player, while the others tried to grab it, the morsel changing hands—beaks--several times till none of it was left. Eventually, the other ducks died from various causes, and mine alone survived. I’d come home from school and head straight for my duck, and feed her and play with her. I’d let her out of her cage and she’d follow me around. I loved that duck.

One day, my grandmother saw her and said, “Your duck has grown so big. Let’s cook her for dinner.”

“Ok.” I said. She was delicious.

We did have dogs growing up, but I didn't consider them my pets. They were just dogs who happened to live with us—animals I observed and sometimes played with. I harnessed a rather huge one to my kiddie tricycle once and had it pull me all over the street like a horse. Our dogs in the old house in Caloocan provided me with endless entertainment, especially when they’d wrestle with each other. I pretended they were fighting lions or something. Two of our dogs—a mother and son team--were also adept at killing cats. They worked together: the son distracting the cat they cornered while the mother grabbed it by the spine and shake the living daylights out of it, severing the spinal cord. The cat is then finished off with a bite to the head or neck. They never ate it though. They just left it there dead. The cats who hung out in our backyard and provided sport for the dogs did eat rats they caught. I saw one eating a rat once and it looked like one of those Discovery Channel documentaries of lions eating gazelles. It was food chain in our backyard and I’d spend hours observing the circle of life, feeling no empathy towards whomever bought it that day. I found it funny that sometimes a cat would get the better of our cat-killing dogs, jumping on their faces and scratching, before making their escape. Other than that, I felt nothing for those creatures. They weren’t mine.

With Power Cat, it seems different, but not by much. Being our first mammalian pet, I feel a bit more responsibility. I want her and her premises clean. I sometimes feel her boredom when she couldn’t get out of the backyard and on to the street. I always check when she still has water. I feel a little bit of empathy, in short. Outside, I let her play and explore. I let her play with the street dogs, not worrying too much about fleas and ticks and mange. She’s having fun and that’s what matters. It occurred to me that that’s how I raise my own kids. My kids can play with whomever they want, and I don't choose their playmates. That was the way I grew up. In fact I’d rather play with the kids in the barong-barongs because they were more fun. We’d catch beetles and cook and eat them. We’d play in mudholes. We’d climb trees.

When we moved to a new neighborhood, I pointed out some kids to my girls. “See those dirty kids? They’re your new playmates.” Not that I’m teaching them not to have some sort of standards. I do. Once, when my youngest daughter was four, she invited some kids over to watch some Disney cartoons on DVD, on the condition that they take a bath first. “They stink,” she said. They also gave my girls lice. But I don't keep them from playing with them, so lice is almost an every-summer event, and I have to buy some pediculicide before school starts. So I’m not too worried about Power Cat having fleas. There’s always flea-and-tick powder to take care of that. She had her shots so she’s safe from distemper and rabies.

Eventually, Power Cat has to go. She’ll get too big for the backyard and would have to move to a bigger place and my brother’s place in Tanay has that. We’ll say goodbye, but we won’t get too worked up over it. After all, she’s just a dog. My aunt’s Shih tzu just got busy with a Maltese and they’re expecting puppies. We’ll get one, she said. I’m naming it WhoDatDawg.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Why did they do it? Because they can.

So there I was in my bed, watching the Wimbledon finals between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, a rivalry that has the makings of an epic, a la Connors-Borg, or Borg-McEnroe. But the World Cup finals will be shown early the next day, and if I stay with the Wimbledon finals to its conclusion, and wake up early the next day for France-Italy, I'd be too sleepy for work. So, not wanting to short-change the company I work for, I decided to skip Wimbledon after the second set, go to sleep, and wake up bright and early the next day to catch the 5:00 am delayed telecast of the Blue finals via RPN-9.

Alarm clock rings at 5, I wake up the kids to get them ready for school, and turned on the TV. Anticipation turned to exasperation when all I got was a black screen. Dont panic, I thought, it's probably just a glitch. I turn to Sky Cable's pay-per-view station to check if theyre having a glitch, too, but no, theyre fine. I quickly turn back to RPN-9. I didnt want to know what happened. Sure the PPV's signal's scrambled but the audio's loud and clear. I waited. And waited. Black screen. Until it dawned on me. Sky Cable blocked the delayed telecast. The delayed telecast. For no reason at all. No wait. They did have a reason. They wanted to rub it in the faces of their subscribers that they can piss them off and they couldnt do anything about it. Just corporate arrogance: Take that, cheapskates! You want to watch the finals for free, eh? No can do. If you wanted it that bad, you shouldve paid us extra. I dare you to do anything about it.

I will, damn you. Paranaque Cable, here we come.

Anyway, my buddy grifter has a capsule summary in his blog here. I have my own summary of the game that I can reduce to one sentence: What the hell were you thinking, Zinedine Zidane?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Blue on blue 2006

It's Italy vs France in an all blue World Cup final. Azzurri vs Les Bleus. After the methodical chess match between Italy and Germany, it was nice to see a slugfest in the France-Portugal semifinal battle of the old warriors, Figo and Zidane. These two venerable ballahs, set to retire after the World Cup, still had it in them, Figo even had one tantalizingly close header that sailed inches over the crossbar that wouldve set the game to extra time.

Fearless forecast: Italy. It'll come down to defense and Buffon is just so much better than Barthez who butterfingered several shots in the match against Portugal. The French backs have to work their asses off to keep the pressure off him. But I wouldnt mind a French victory. Zidane deserves a fitting sendoff.

(Thanks to RPN 9 for airing the semifinals and finals on a delayed basis. They air it at 5 in the morning while the live game is still going on.)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Matisyahu (Live at Stubb's)

Nothing like listening to Matisyahu in the morning to get you in the groove (not to mention a prayerful mood).
‏שִֽׁירוּ־לֹ֖ו שִׁ֣יר חָדָ֑שׁ הֵיטִ֥יבוּ נַ֝גֵּ֗ן בִּתְרוּעָֽה
Psa 33:3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

(That is, Rap like you mean it and dont forget the face-melting guitar solo, duuu-u-uuude.)

Friday, June 23, 2006

Let's make sipa the ball. Now na!

Another blow for Philippine football as the USA crashes out of the World Cup, losing to Ghana 2-1. Ive always maintained that a good showing by the Yanks would make us 'mental colonists' embrace the game, since it'll boost US soccer, what with our let's-make-gaya-the-Yanks mentality. But, alas, a sucky performance by the Yanks means we'll have to wait til 2010 to finally shake off basketball and embrace football (and sepak takraw) like we're supposed to. (Try watching a Pinoy basketball game on TV right after watching an NBA game and youll pretty much react the same way I do--"Who are these slow-moving dwarves? Do they have lead weights in their shorts? Are they ill?--til you realize theyre making millions of pesos a year playing that way and youll know deep in your heart something is wrong with the world; that we're caught in a colonial time-warp, hanging on to the glory days when centers were 6-feet tall.)

It was important for the Americans to score first, and score early to demoralize the Ghanans. That didnt happen. Claudio Reyna hung on to the ball too long near their own goal and it was swiftly snatched away from him by 20-yr old Haminu Dramani who only had Kasey Keller to beat. 1-0 Ghana. Clint Dempsey equalized a few minutes later from a superb pass from DaMarcus Beasley, but in stoppage time, the German referee made a stupid call, awarding a penalty to Ghana for... an Oscar winning flop.

In the second half, the Yanks squandered numerous chances, and Landon Donovan was all but non-existent. What the hell was he doing there? Brian McBride was working his ass off up front, but Donovan for the most part just looked overwhelmed. He had a chance to redeem himself late in the second half when he took a free kick in a dangerous position, just outside the penalty area, which he promtly sent sailing away beyond the reach of even King Kong had he been playing. In 2002, top European clubs were interested in him. Now, he'll be lucky to book a place in the women's league.

2-1 Ghana, USA crashes out, and my hopes for a boost for Philippine football along with them. We'll have four more years of those slow-moving dwarves getting TV coverage, and four more years of being thrashed in football by teams like Cambodia and Myanmar.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Uno, Dos, Tres! Allez, allez, allez!

Howie Severino bats for football. Who wouldve thunk that a Pinoy still holds the FC Barcelona club record for most goals scored?

Alas, the only way the Pinoys are ever going to embrace the beautiful game is if the Americans embrace it. And the Americans will embrace it if they do well in this World Cup (prospects right now: between slim and subatomic). If only for the fact that Pinoys are frustrated Yanks (much to our detriment), I am praying that the Yanks make it past the group stage, because it'll give such a big boost to American football, and inevitably because of kuya worship, to its 'little brown brother,' Philippine football.

We need a grassroots-level introduction of the game to the kids. It's not as hard as it looks. In almost every remote barangay is a basketball court. Place a goal on each end of that court, you already roughly have a five-on-five futsal court. You can also get football back in the public school curriculum via futsal and sipa (sepak takraw), which is supposed to be our national sport; a national sport that probably nobody has ever seen played, ever.

Philippine basketball is a joke. The fact that corporations still pay megabucks to put up leagues and pay megabuck salaries baffles me no end, what with a better product easily available on TV (the NBA). Pour that kind of corporate support for football, and maybe... Nah, forget the World Cup for now, pour that kind of support for football, and maybe we can beat Vietnam. Really, it isnt corporate sponsorship that can get us qualified for the World Cup, but a genuine love of the game. Cultivate that and we've taken the first step.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Progenies viperarum!

In the face of the coming abolition of the death penalty, The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCED), in keeping with their mission toward "discipling of our nation where Jesus Christ is the only Savior and Lord," has issued a statement opposing the proposed move. "We uphold the principle of life for life. The punishment must fit the crime. The penalty must be commensurate to the gravity of the offense."

However, in an earlier statement, the PCED's Savior and Lord had this to say: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." And in another instance, in defense of one accused of a capital offense, he said to the implementing authorities, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." (The accused was granted a stay of execution.)

No word yet as to how the members of the PCED will resolve this apparent ambiguity between their leader's personal statements and the PCED's official stand supporting the death penalty.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Life is good

An ingredient in beer has been recently found to help prevent prostate cancer. Xanthohumol, a compound in hops, the flower responsible for beer's bouquet, inhibits a protein in the cells of the prostate gland from turning on a switch that turns a cell cancerous. However, xanthohumol occurs in hops in such small quantities that at present, you have to drink about 17 beers a day to get any benefit. And you know what that does to your liver.

But not to worry, a separate study has found that coffee can protect your liver against cirrhosis. "People drinking one cup of coffee per day were, on average, 20% less likely to develop alcoholic cirrhosis. For people drinking two or three cups the reduction was 40%, and for those drinking four or more cups of coffee a day the reduction in risk was 80%."

I ask you, does life get any better than that? I predict that the next scientific breakthrough will involve nicotine and world peace.

Why not the Aussies? Oi!

Appearing in only their second World Cup and the first since 1974, the Socceroos look like theyre doomed in Group F, what with Brazil, Japan, and Croatia in there with them. Like the Yanks, football isnt even on the top of the average Aussie's sports list, trounced by Aussie Rules Football, Rugby, and Cricket. They also call it soccer, 'saw-kah,' like the Yanks, to differentiate it from football, in this case, the Aussie Rules kind. But their amazing 3-1 victory over Japan has forced people to take a second look. A lot of their players have extensive experience in competitive football, having played for top-level clubs in Europe. Their coach is Guus Hiddink, who guided South Korea to the semis in 2004. And they play hard-ass football. In fact, I think these players would feel right at home on a rugby pitch as they would in a soccer field. Their physical, rugged style may be just what's needed to rattle the superstar-laden Brazilian team. (I'm not saying they can beat them. Im saying they can rattle them just enough and earn some goals that would help them make it past the group stages.)

As an Asian, I suppose I should be rooting for an Asian team and it looks like the South Koreans have the best chance, but I dont like the Koreans for dumping all their telenovelas here.

(Both Brazil and Australia wear yellow and green uniforms. How do they decide which team gets to wear the yellow-jersey-green-shorts combo? Coin toss?)

Monday, June 05, 2006

Standin in line to see the show tonight and there's a light on

I may have developed an addiction over the past few weeks--an addiction to chili peppers. It all started when the labuyo plants (we have four or five of them) in front of the house erupted in an orgy of bright red fruit, and I noticed a little old lady from I-dont-know-where merrily picking them and placing them in a small plastic bag which was already helf-full. "The birds are just eating them, I might as well pick them," she apologized when I looked questioningly at her one morning on my way home from the bakery. I wouldnt have minded her picking the fruit up, especially if she was right and that they were all just going to the birds. I just thought it was rather rude that she didnt ask anybody for permission first. And she was trampling on some of the other plants, especially on the lemon grass. "Ok. Just make sure to leave some for us. And please dont step on the tanglad."

The old lady did leave some for us. The green ones. These soon ripened after a few days and soon there were more chili peppers than I could ever use. I placed some of the them in a bilao and dried them on the roof. And the chili plants just kept on giving. To make them dry faster, I thought I'd freeze them overnight first before drying them. The freezing process makes the water in the pods expand and bust through the cell wall and this made them easier to dry. I was right. I ran some of the dried pods through a grinder and soon I had a jar full of chili pepper flakes which I then sprinkled on everything I ate. I sprinkled them on steamed rice, on fish, on eggs, adobo, pasta. I even placed a dried pod in my hot chocolate, Aztec style. Soon I moved on from dried chili to fresh chili.

At first, they burned my mouth, but I wanted to see how far I could push it. I added more and more chili to my food and fought through the pain until I found myself inured to it. It still makes me sweat but I can eat a whole labuyo pod now without discomfort... as long as they stay on my tongue first. If the chili makes its way to my throat without my salivary glands working on them first, they still burn. Once youve gotten over the heat, you can taste the fresh fruit taste, and it's delicious. Every meal is now accompanied by five or six fresh chilis, chopped fine, with olive or canola oil.

Here's what Ive learned:

1) Contrary to popular belief, chili doesnt cause hemorrhoids. Ive had hemorrhoids before, way before I started eating copious amounts of chili, and eating chili didnt aggravate this pre-exisitng condition. Although it is easy to imagine the capsaicin (the active ingredient in chili--the one causing the burn) making a hemorrhoid more painful. At the start of my culinary fling with chili, the burn coming in was matched by the burn going out. But as my body got used to the capsaicin, the burn subsided. That includes the burn in my butt when I poop.

2) Chili isnt all about heat. It's rich in vitamins A and C, the B vitamins, and the minerals potassium, magnesium, and iron. Recently, capsaicin has been found to make prostate cancer cells commit suicide.

3) There has been a debate on what species the siling labuyo belongs to. Yes, botanists and chili geeks do debate these things. There are those who say that it's subspecies of Capsicum frutescens (relative of the Tabasco chili) and there are those who say that it's a subspecies of Capsicum chinensis (relative of the habanero chili). But a more recent contender is the Capsicum annuum chili (relative of the jalapeno and serrano chilis), albeit one of the more fiery members of that species, with strengths up to 100,000 Scoville units. (Scoville units are measure of the chili's heat.) Although at one time, the Guinness people listed siling labuyo as the hottest chili on earth (since corrected), the champion is the Habanero chili which can get up to 600,000 Scoville units... and still climbing as botanists develop even more lethal strains. I think we Pinoys use siling labuyo as a generic term for these three species of chili. Since it's not really a major part of our diet, our ancestors didnt see the need to differentiate them. Hence anything that looks like a small, hot, red chili is siling labuyo no matter what species it is. (We also did this to the maya, erstwhile national bird. We call 2 species of bird maya: Passer montanus and Lonchura malacca.) The chili in front of our house most likely belongs to the Capsicum annuum species. Its flowers look like serrano flowers.

4) The chili labeled as siling labuyo in supermarkets isnt. It's probably a Capsicum frutescens imported from Taiwan. Theyre longer and redder, like the ones in the picture above. And hardier since they have to survive the trip... and theyre not as hot. Theyre probably cayenne peppers.

5) The so-called 'chili high' is probably caused by the release of endorphins, the body's natural pain killers. The heat of a chili is not a 'taste' like sweet, sour, bitter, etc., but is a sensation caused by capsaicin's effect on pain receptors. The body reacts by releasing endorphins and endorphins are chemically quite similar to morphine. It could explain the addiction. For the record, I hardly ever notice a perceptible 'high' after a meal with chili. But what do I know? I dotn know what a high feels like.

There's a reason why these plants developed capsaicin, one of which probably is to keep mammals away, and since Im a mammal, I would do well to listen. Birds arent affected by capsaicin. In fact, birds are a very efficient seed propagation vector for these savvy plants. There have been conflicting studies on the part capsaicin plays in the development of stomach cancers. Some studies say they cause it, while others say they prevent it. Most likely, different people react differently depending on their own personal genetic code. Eventually, I may have to cut back. But not yet.

Photo from Used without permission. (

Addendum 06 June 2006: Here's a useful site for aspiring chili-heads.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Another football blog entry

The scuttlebutt around Highbury before the UEFA Champions League final between Arsenal and Barcelona last Thursday morning (Manila time) was that Arsenal and France main man Thierry Henry was offered a slot by, and was considering a move to, Barcelona. But after their 2-1 defeat in the finals, I knew--knew!--Henry would like to get back at Barcelona for that defeat and would decide to stay with Arsenal. And he did, to Arsene Wenger's relief. Arsenal wouldnt be where it is now without him. He's worked so hard for his team to reach the UEFA Champions League finals and he wouldnt want to leave all that with a loss. This guy's a winner. Break both his legs and he'll still try to score goals for his team.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bits and pieces of my kids and nieces

Children are such a joy to shoot. Wait, that didnt come out right. Anyway, here are some photos of them doing what they do best: being kids.

There's always room for one more. Posted by Picasa

"I caught a big one!" Posted by Picasa

Tickle. Posted by Picasa

Who needs a floor polisher? Just let 'er rip. Posted by Picasa

Peek-a-boo! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Germany 2006

I always hoped this could be the year England finally claims a World Cup title since the last one in 1966. After all, they still claim at least a sentimental ownership of the beautiful game--even Barcelona has an English flag on their offical team seal and so does AC Milan--so I thought it was about time. Early this year, you could make a very good case for England winning the big one this year. Their offense is as good as any team on the planet: Owen and Rooney up front and playing right behind them you have Lampard, Gerrard, and Beckham; that's enough to strike fear into any team that has to defend against them, and I told an English colleague so. He had his doubts. He was privy to some inner workings that are covered in the British press and not covered here. Like the discord in the ranks due to England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson's management style. But still...

It's May now and the the World Cup's next month and things are not looking all that well for England. They have a team plagued with injuries. Wayne Rooney is a doubtful starter, having injured his foot in a Premiere League match against Chelsea. Michael Owen also missed Newcastle's final match, also against Chelsea, due also to a broken foot. England would have to pin its hopes on a forward line composed of two unproven players: the long, tall, Liverpool forward Peter Crouch, and the 17-year old Theo Walcott, who has yet to play a major-league football game for Arsenal. (A showdown with American sensation, 16-year old Freddy Adu, wouldve been fun to watch if Adu got picked for the U.S. team.) That said, Peter Crouch might just be the X-Factor for this English team, especially in set pieces. Look for Beckham's passes to keep finding Crouch.

A betting man wouldnt put up money on the England team in its present, hobbled state--top defenders Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole are also coming from injuries--but it would be nice to see the country that gave us football finally win one. The smart money is definitely on defending champions Brazil, but how satisfying is it for a fan from a country that probably won't even be within range of the World Cup in the next century to watch while the superstar-laden Brazilian team take the cup home again this year? An underdog win is a lot more satisfying for Pinoys, since we're that: the perennial underdogs. In everything. Except billiards. In 1998, it was the underdog French that did it (who promptly bombed out in the first round in 2002). Who knows? Maybe this year, the English could do it.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Right. 'Tis the season

You Are Boston

Both modern and old school, you never forget your roots.
Well educated and a little snobby, you demand the best.
And quite frankly, you think you are the best.

Famous people from the Boston area: Conan O'Brien, Ben Affleck, New Kids on the Block

The Movie Of Your Life Is A Cult Classic

Quirky, offbeat, and even a little campy - your life appeals to a select few.
But if someone's obsessed with you, look out! Your fans are downright freaky.

Your best movie matches: Office Space, Showgirls, The Big Lebowski

You Are 50% Evil

You are evil, but you haven't yet mastered the dark side.
Fear not though - you are on your way to world domination.

Moooo-huhahahahaaa.. Moooooo-huhahahahaaaa...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

More clicks

More fun with the new, old XA2. I bought a cheap roll of ASA 200 film with the never-before-heard brand name of Solid Gold. It costs about half of what a similar film from Kodak would cost. And as expected, the film was crap. Visible graininess. Too much for an ASA 200 film. I had to tweak the pictures below a bit because of this.

Isabel drawing Posted by Picasa

Isabel's umbrella Posted by Picasa

Let's play squeeze the baby Posted by Picasa

Are you following me? Posted by Picasa

Fire hazard. Make every week Fire Prevention Week Posted by Picasa

I dont think Ive had a plant give me the finger before. Posted by Picasa

I light my torch and wave it for the full moon on Friday. Posted by Picasa